Previously unknown salivary glands found deep in the human head

Researchers from the Netherlands, while studying new methods of medical imaging, unexpectedly discovered several hitherto unknown glands in the human body. They are located deep in the back of the nasopharynx and appear to be responsible for the production of saliva. This discovery has already led to the need to change the algorithms for treating neck and head cancer.

The honor of the discovery belongs to the dental surgeon Matthijs Walstar and the oncologist-radiologist Wouter Vogel. They studied prostate cancer using positron emission tomography technology and during the scanning process, they noticed that the illuminated radioactive labels are not only in the area of ​​the prostate gland. After analyzing more than a hundred similar images and conducting two targeted autopsies, the scientists confirmed the discovery of new salivary glands.

In the next step, Vogel and Walstar undertook to analyze the effect of radiation therapy on these organs. It is known that the effect of radiation on the salivary glands can cause complications with speech, swallowing, and eating. Researchers studied 723 cases of treatment for laryngeal and head cancer and came to the conclusion that dangerous and incomprehensible side effects in a number of cases were caused by exposure to radiation on previously unknown salivary glands.

It turns out that the doctors, without knowing it, harmed the patients during the radiation therapy of the head. This is due to the targeting process - in most cases it is technically possible to deliver radiation to a specific area of ​​the body without affecting the rest. Now that the location of a new important organ has been revealed, this will be taken into account in radiation therapy.